“…He or she does commit himself or herself, within history, to fight at their side.” -Paulo Freire
Paulo Freire’s description of critical pedagogy emphasizes engagement in the real world, extending far beyond the classroom. This engagement is not unrealistic, but instead focuses on encouraging students and teachers to walk alongside all different types of people and to have a dialogue with them; this movement will invoke true understanding and social change. His theory further discusses dialogic versus static exchange between teachers and students, where both teacher and student learn and engage together.
As Freire suggests, students should see themselves as active agents ready to shape and interact with the world, and I believe they cannot see this without the teachers first acknowledging their role in this; what is our role in social justice, and how can we further help students see their role in such social change?
Kinchloe’s Critical Pedagogy in School refers to the social justice we as teachers can bring. What will be my method to bring forth such justice? I believe that we as teachers will have the chance to promote social change in two ways: by entering a dialogue with students of diverse backgrounds and by inspiring students to seek social justice themselves beyond the classroom. Entering a dialogue with students requires acceptance and encouragement of uniting unique stories. As stated by Kinchloe, education must move to a critical complexity that acknowledges “meaning-making” is not purely a rational process. Both teacher and student must be mindful of implied meanings, and take care when engaging in dialogue with students. I believe incorporating topics typically excluded in education- like disability studies- can assist in breaking down boundaries that may occur during such dialogue.
As Kinchloe suggests, critical teachers should challenge and question; this may take form through implementing studies of previously excluded areas, such as disability studies. Disabilities are commonly studied in fields such as psychology or medicine, and they are typically studied by a “nondisabled majority” as a form of deviance. Taylor in Disability Studies in Higher education (2011) discusses and promotes a new direction for the field of disability studies: one that includes people with disabilities as the researchers and views disabilities as diverse in existence in the social, cultural, and political spheres. As exemplified by Syracuse University, the implementation of such Disability Studies that parallel other minority studies (like Women and Gender Studies) could benefit from more diverse student recruitment. This field of study would encourage understanding of the complexities entailed in the vast array of diagnoses and characteristics defined as “disabilities.” Furthermore, this field would provide a platform for disability research and awareness, as well as unite people passionate about disability rights.
Through subjects taught within the classroom or the inclusion of dialogue of such topics, connecting material with social problems can help students easily see the application of classroom studies to global issues. The importance of learning becomes clearer and more directly related to broader interests and movements.
How will you use your teaching platform to seek social justice?